Who Were Your Ancestors? 

 CHRISTY HOWARD

CHRISTY HOWARD

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People are searching for their family history like never before, and what they really want to know is the STORY of their ancestors. Names, dates and places are good, but we all want STORIES. 

I have loved learning about my family. Especially two of my great-great grandmothers. 

One was befriended by the Sioux in South Dakota (Dakota Territory) when she was a young girl after her family arrived from Norway. The family, part of the first group to settle west of the Sioux River, included a widowed mother who spun flax as trade to survive, and two daughters. As time passed young Gurina’s Sioux friends warned her (and thus her sister and widowed mother) that they should leave immediately because of upcoming violence. They quickly fled to Iowa and, therefore, lived beyond an infamous (understandable) retaliation by the Sioux. The trio later returned, but if Gurina’s Sioux friends had not warned her, our family would not be here today! I love that we share a middle name and I wonder/worry about what became of her Sioux friends.

Gurina also told her part of a Jessie James encounter. One of her granddaughters who lives in The Yukon Territory (who was given the small flax spinning wheel that kept the family alive - how cool is that?) wrote it down. Apparently Jessie James was traveling west (read: “on the run”) after a very famous botched bank robbery in Minnesota. Gurina “gave” Jessie a horse. I’m laughing about the verb there. At first I thought there must be a better verb since he was on the run, but after giving it more thought and overlaying Gurina’s history, she probably did keep her cool and “gave” may be the perfect verb!

Another great-great grandmother “Hester” and grandfather (who started in Colorado) had actual lions, tigers, leopards, chimps and bears — to name a few. They had a LOT of them. (I’m not condoning wild animal capture, but it is a fact. They supplied circuses and later movies.) I’ve been told that there’s still an ordinance in Independence, MO, a few blocks from Harry Truman’s home, prohibiting elephants in the town square. It makes me laugh. There is much to this story, and I have read many accounts of people hearing the lions, panthers and tigers roar at night in Independence, MO and later in California. I have a copy of Hester’s handwritten will on the family’s business letterhead (the picture on this page) that features a lion, an elephant and a monkey. The will says WHY everyone receives their portion and tells part of Hester’s story. It’s so much more interesting than just a list of assets because it gives you a glimpse into her life and what she thought. Plus I love seeing her handwriting!

I often marvel at these two women and wonder whether my adventuresome spirit (my mom and dad used to call me “The Little Explorer”) passed down from these great-great grandmothers. I wish I could have met them!

Do you know your story? I’ll bet you wish you knew more. But that isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning. YOUR story matters. The one you are living today. In three generations, you will be a marvel! — Your words, ideas, reflections and memories will be of great value to your progeny.  More than you can imagine.

Our ancestors shaped us, and we are somehow shaping life for people who have not even been born yet. So WRITE IT DOWN! TELL YOUR STORY! Even just a page about your life and your thoughts. Bullet points are fine. — Leave them some clues about you!

A grateful great-great granddaughter,
“The Little Explorer" (grown up) - Christy